Blair completes government reshuffle

Prime minister Tony Blair has completed his wide-ranging government reshuffle.

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Despite a conciliatory promise to learn from the drubbing Labour received in the general election, Blair has pushed defiantly ahead, advancing modernisers.

Gordon Brown was retained as chancellor following a guarantee extracted from Blair during the election campaign, but there were new signs of disunity as it became clear that, apart from input into the Treasury team, he was not consulted ahead of the reshuffle.

Controversy even stalked the replacement for former chief secretary Paul Boateng, who is to become Britain’s high commissioner in South Africa. Transport secretary Alistair Darling is understood to have refused the job and kept his old post. Instead, Brownite Des Browne – former Home Office minister responsibility for nationality, immigration, asylum and identity cards – has been promoted.

Long-serving paymaster General Dawn Primarolo retained her post. Former economic secretary John Healey has been promoted to financial secretary and former junior education minister Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, has been appointed economic secretary in his place.

At the new Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry headed by former work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson, Blair has appointed former pensions minister Malcolm Wicks as energy minister.

Former countryside minister Alun Michael is to be a trade minister with promoted junior Northern Ireland minister Ian Pearson. Another former junior Northern Ireland minister, Barry Sheerman, has been appointed a junior PEI minister.

Former financial secretary Stephen Timms has been appointed pensions minister under new work and pensions secretary David Blunkett to work on the pensions crisis.

It is likely that Tory leader Michael Howard will announce his shadow cabinet reshuffle as soon as Wednesday.

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